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Archive for November 21st, 2014

Site Update

see you soon

There will be no site updates for the next 2 weeks whilst I go away on holiday to Japan, it’s been a long 2 years since I was last in Tokyo. I am aiming to catch a number of movies whilst I’m over there such as the new Takashi Miike one As The Gods Will and Parasyte. Expect a slew of reviews when I return in early December.

See you when I get back.

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Library Wars (2013)

Library Wars

During the 80’s in an alternate version of Japan, the government creates a task force called the MBC (Media Betterment Committee) which is a military unit that confiscates any books from libraries that contain offensive material. An opposition movement (Library Defense Force) is formed to protect such books and move them to their own libraries. It is now the year 2019 and rookie recruit Ika Kasahara has joined the LDF. She made the decision to join them as when she was younger the MBC tried to roughly take a book she was reading from inside a library but she was rescued by an officer of the LDF. Kasahara wants to meet the ‘Prince’ that rescued her. Tensions reach fever pitch between the MBC and the LDF when the MBC declare that they intend to storm the LDF headquarters to retrieve more books that need to be destroyed. A battle between the two groups is imminent but who will come out on top?

Based on a novel, this is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be – an action movie or a romantic comedy. This indecision by the director really hurts this movie. It opens very dramatically with the MBC troops entering a library and massacring the people there. I did think at this point it was going to be an all-action epic but sadly it isn’t although the final 30 mins is a big shootout between the MBC and the LDF. There are shades of Orwell’s 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 in the plotline. You’ve got two military groups with opposing views on censorship laws butting heads against each other. It tries to give a warning about civil liberties being threatened in the future if we’re not careful. Although the action scenes are well done although slow in showing up onscreen, the same cannot be said about the embarrassing comedy and the dire romantic aspect of the movie. The director Shinsuke Sato has said that the censorship aspect of the story is not the main theme for the movie. It’s the romantic will they won’t they tale between Kasahara and Dojo that’s given the honour. Fair enough if you enjoy this kind of thing and I know this movie did very well in Japan with teenagers when it was released but I felt it was too cheesy for my liking and not enough action. The characters are your usual cliched stereotypes. Besides the censorship story doesn’t really go into that much depth anyway although the viewer is given some background knowledge right at the start of the movie of the gradual changes that transformed Japan into a Big Brother society. As for the action scenes which are rather scant until the last 30 mins it’s a case of too little too late. The running time of the movie is over 2 hours long which is a tad too generous for my liking as things tend to drag until the big battle between the MBC and the LDF.

Library Wars screenshot

The first half of the movie revolves around Kasahara’s recruitment to the LDF and the hard physical training she has to endure. Kasahara shows her judo fighting skills in the gym when she manages to pin her fellow recruits until her superior officer Atsushi Dojo (who unbeknown to her is actually the man that saved her all those years ago) puts her in her place. Dojo doesn’t want Kasahara in the team as her reason for joining isn’t good enough (looking for her hero) and she tends to not listen to orders. A subplot involving Kasahara’s female colleague and a man too shy to ask her out felt to me like it was just wasting time. Thankfully things pick up during the second half as a truce agreed between both groups is broken and a full scale assault on the LDF headquarters by the MBC takes place.

Nana Eikura does OK as the lead female Kasahara. I haven’t seen her in anything since 2007 so she looks very grown up (facially and physically) from when I last saw her in the drama Operation Love when she was still a teenager. Junichi Okada plays Dojo, the commanding officer that doesn’t like Kasahara at all and tries to make her quit the LDF. Chiaki Kuriyama has only a small role as Kasahara’s colleague so if you’re one of her fans you’ll be disappointed with the amount of screentime she has. It’s like Chiaki is somewhat moving away from roles that have defined her career so far and taking up comedy roles instead. I don’t have any complaints about that as given the right script she does comedy very well.

Overall, this movie didn’t turn out as I expected it to be. I was hoping for a darker, grittier storyline BUT despite my grumbles I still enjoyed it to a certain degree. Don’t expect any deeper meaning to the plot, after all this is just a popcorn movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Three_Against_the_World

Charlie Chan (not that Charlie Chan!) is a detective that is charged with protecting the Koran that is being shown at a museum. There are however people that are interested in stealing this precious artifact such as a top fighter named Ma Ju-Lung and a skilled thief called Cho with his daughter. Chan has to keep one step ahead of the two if he wants to prevent the Koran from being stolen. To complicate matters is the fact that Cho’s other beautiful daughter has fallen for Chan and her loyalty become divided. Before the trio square off against each other, they must join forces against a greater threat to their plans. Who will eventually come out on top?

During the late 80’s and early 90’s. Andy Lau starred in a number of movies – some were memorable, others were not and faded into obscurity. This movie isn’t that well known to Western fans but that’s not to say this movie is bad because it isn’t. It’s a fun action heist/comedy caper which is very entertaining. The Westernised title is rubbish to begin with as it’s not the three people teaming up to take on the world, it should be more like Three Against Each Other which is more in line with the plot. I think the proper English translation is something like Dragon Trio Fight Over Treasure. I wouldn’t say the movie is one of Lau’s best at all but there’s more than enough to entertain his fans over 90 mins. Lau is backed by a great cast such as the beautiful Rosamund Kwan, Teddy Robin and martial artist Tsui Siu Keung.

Three-Against-the-World screenshot

I believe the lavish sets and costumes for this movie were rehashed from when Jackie Chan was filming Miracles: The Canton Godfather so production values are quite high. This isn’t an all-action martial arts spectacular although the last 15 or so mins has many impressive set pieces. The fight choreography is by Yuen Wah so at least the viewer will know that his standards are usually pretty good. The story is light in tone and although it isn’t a laugh-out-loud movie there are plenty of amusing moments to make the viewer chuckle. Andy Lau also gets to take part in a bizarre piano duet with his co-star Teddy Robin half way through the movie although I’m sure the lyrics have been mistranslated as they sound stupid. It doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to showcase Lau’s talent as a singer. Double crosses and even triple crosses is the order of the day as each party tries to get the upper hand in trying to get the Koran although most times Charlie Chan has a trick up his sleeve to foil the would-be thieves. It does get a little bit ridiculous and tedious during the second half of the movie as a number of fake Korans are bandied around the characters as red herrings so you don’t have a clue who has the real one. Where the characters have gotten their hands on these fake Korans is never explained? Are they being sold at a local market and anybody can buy them??

Andy Lau is great as Charlie Chan who as well as being likeable is a bit of a charming rogue with the ladies. Although Lau isn’t what people would call a martial artist he does get a chance to show the limited skills he has as a fighter. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rosamund Kwan and I enjoyed seeing her in this movie. She’s absent for the majority of the first half although you get glimpses of her. It’s in the second half she comes to the fore and takes more of an active role in the storyline. Teddy Robin surprises everybody as the character Cho during the climax. Teddy Robin isn’t that tall (not sure if you can call him a midget?) but when you see him take on Andy Lau and Tsui Siu Keung and actually gain the upper hand against the pair it’s incredible to see. The only mistake the filmmakers do is that Teddy Robin’s stunt double is noticeably taller than him and you will notice the height difference during the fight!! I got the impression that the whole cast had a ball whilst filming this movie and it shows in their performances.

Three Against The World might not be Andy Lau’s crowning glory in his glittering movie career but if you’re one of his fans you should not pass this opportunity up of watching this movie. The mix of comedy and martial arts works well and I found it a lot of fun.

No trailer but here’s an action scene from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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